Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Defuse and diffuse

It seems to me as if journalists cannot tell the difference between these two words. They aren't even homonyms!

Defuse. That's what you do with a bomb. More metaphorically, that's what you do with a dangerous situation - you calm it down and remove the detonator and explosive.

Diffuse. When you add a drop of ink to a glass of water, the ink diffuses through the water, until eventually it's all mixed in.

Do, you do not "diffuse" a dangerous situation. You defuse it.

Please get these straight.

Thank you.

Monday, 9 April 2018

https blog

Visitors to this blog will no longer be able to access the unencrypted version (via http). All access will be via https.

It's not that there's anything secret on this blog - far from it. But this is part of a move on the whole internet to https.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Hungary again

Several months ago, I got an email from Hungary claiming that I hadn't paid my VAT for Q1 2017, and I owed them 8.65 euros. I passed the email over to HMRC, because I use the HMRC VAT Moss system. That lets me pay the VAT to all 27 non-UK EU countries in one go, telling them how much goes to each. And then HMRC pays the various tax authorities in each country.  HMRC told me to take no action, they'd deal with it. So I just left them to it.

Today, I got another email, suggesting that I owe them for Q4 2017, the sum of 33.33 euros.
So I've passed that on to HMRC, and I've asked what happened to the previous demand?

Hungary is now quite low on my list of countries I love.


We triggered article 50 a year ago. A year from now, we tumble out of the EU. There might be some intervening period, of a couple of years, we don't know the details of that yet.

What I'm wondering is this. When I sell the USA, there's no VAT to pay, because the USA isn't in the EU, and I don't have a tariff to pay. When we are disgorged from the EU:

Will I have to still pay VAT on exports to EU countries?
Will the VAT Moss system still be there?
What happens during the two years when we're partially in ?

What's going on?

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Data Recovery

Jeff Bones emailed me - his computer won't boot up and he has valuable data on it. So I asked him to bring it round.

I used to do data recovery professionally, but I haven't done that for 25 years. Just occasionally as a favour to a friend.

He was right. The Advent laptop computer got as far as a screen from Windows telling me about a problem. That's good, it shows that the drive is at least working. The drive is a 500 gb 2 1/2 inch Sata drive, a Western Digital WD5000 BEVT. I had a look around; those are pretty much unobtainable now, but there's lots of other similar 500gb drives for sale.

So I connected up an external DVD drive (I couldn't persuade the built-in DVD drive to read my DVDs, I don't know why, and didn't investigate it because I was happy to use my own DVD drive) and booted up from Fedora Linux Live. Fedora Linux Live means that I'm running Linux, but didn't install anything on the hard disk. Because if I did install on the hard disk, that would wipe out the data I'm trying to recover.

So Linux booted up fine. I connected it to my internal network, which meant I could ssh into it and run stuff on it without having to use the inferior laptop keyboard (all laptop keyboards are inferior to my beautiful IBM Model S clicky keyboard).

I had a look around, and I was able to mount drives sda1 and sda2, and I could see all the files. So now I need to copy the files. But there's 150 gb of files. Obviously Jeff didn't want them all; a lot of them were system files, temporary files, ancient backups and so on. But Jeff needs to think a bit to decide what he wants.

I started off by copying the files across the network to my server. But that was going astoundingly slowly (I don't know why) and wasn't really going to fully solve the problem. Because I'd need 30-odd DVDs to copy that lot. Not practical.

Then I had an idea. I have a 1000 gb external drive. So I connected that, and started copying the files to it. Then I stopped, because I realised that I had a linux ext3 file system on that drive, and can Windows handle that? I don't know. But Linux can handle an NTFS file system. So I deleted the partition on my 1000 gb, and made a new partition, telling fdisk that it would be NTFS. Then I formatted it as an NTFS file system, and mounted it to the laptop.

I used rsync to copy the files from the laptop to my 1000 gb, and I was surprised how quickly that went. So now I have Jeff's 150 gb of data on this external drive. I've suggested that he bring his new laptop round, so that I could connect up the external drive and check that everything is accessible, and then he can, in his own time, rummage through the files that I've rescued, and copy them to his new computer.

Job (probably) done. I've still got it!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Silence is golden

I have a nice 32gb HP workstation, but it's unusable because the fans are too loud. So I decided to do something about it. I bought three things from eBay..

Computer cooling fans can be loud when they run fast. There's two ways to slow down a fan. One is to use a lower voltage than the 12 volts they're designed for, the other way is PWM, pulse width modulation. PWM means that you switch the fan on and off rapidly, umpteen times per second. Less power, means it runs slower.

My first purchase (£2) is a little board that takes 12 volt input, and has three header blocks for fans, one for a thermometer and one for a buzzer. You set the desired temperature ranges with the dip switches.

Next, I bought a few PWM controllers each for a single fan, £2.25 each.

And third, I bought five 4-pin extension cables, to make life easier.

I installed the board and connected up the two external fans, and the fan that blew down on the memory. This immediately made the box a lot quieter. But still a bit noisy, so I used one of the single-fan controllers to slow down the fan cooling the memory, and that was good.

So I put the board inside a plastic box, to make sure it wouldn't cause a short circuit, and I'm happy with the result.

Monday, 26 March 2018

A health tax?

Jeremy Hunt believes that there should be a dedicated tax specifically to be spent on the NHS and social care.

What a bad idea!

If you don't think very hard, it sounds like a nice idea. More money for the NHS!

Or is it? If you have a "Health tax" that garners £10 billion per year, then hey! We could reduce the NHS money that comes out of general taxation by £10 billion!

If the NHS needs more funding (which is a separate question), then wouldn't it be a good idea to simply raise income tax, which would bear harder on the rich than on the poor?  Rather than invent a whole new tax system, with a herd of civil servants to administer it, with bookfulls of legislation to enact it, and providing an whole new source of revenue for accountants as they sought ways to minimise clients exposure to this new tax?

If you want more money, raise income tax. And don't try to fool us into thinking that some new tax is ringfenced for the NHS.

Jeremy and the Mural

I am not a great fan of Jeremy Corbyn, and I am definitely against antisemitism in any form. But.

Jeremy is being attacked because of a mural. The mural was being removed, and jeremy said that he was opposed to the destruction of art.

That was a while ago, on a Facebook group. And now, just recently, it is revealed that Jeremy supported an antisemitic mural.

But look at this.

I see a monopoly board resting on the backs of people. I see six men sitting round that board. The implication is that these six men are exploiting the guys under the table.

What I don't understand, is what is it that tells you that the six guys are Jewish?

None of them is wearing a skullcap. I see no star of David. No clothing as per orthodox jews. No payot (the curls that hang down by the ears of orthodox jews. Only one has a beard.

Behind them, there's the pyramid with the eye. That's what you find on dollar bills. It's not any kind of Jewish ting that I'm aware of.

I can't actually see anything that says "These are Jews".

What they are, is old white guys.

So I really really don't see how this is being portrayed as antisemitic.

But what do I know? The witchhunt has started. And everyone (other than me?) seems to have accepted the mural as antisemitic.